During August 2020, American house DJ and producer Erick Morillo was charged with rape. This was after he turned himself in at a police station for questioning. He was due in court on September 4th, but was found dead in his home three days earlier.
The woman he was accused of raping was fellow DJ Kristen Knight. I’m allowed to tell you this, because Knight waived the anonymity that those who make allegations of rape are granted in many jurisdictions worldwide. She will never be given a decision by a court of law – the view of this blog is he was guilty as sin.
So you’d imagine Mixmag, a publication that has been writing about all things dance music since 1983, would be acutely aware of all this, right? And you’d further imagine they’d treat any archived articles which feature Morillo in a sensitive manner, right?
This is an article which originally appeared in 2017 – Mixmag has a habit of promoting old articles on weekends due to their staff of mostly interns only working from Monday to Friday. And the plug for the old article is bad enough – with the headline making it worse.
And in a rather sick twist, Morillo speaks in the article about feeling “violated”. You honestly couldn’t make this up.
Mixmag have been contacted for comment.
Update at 10am – Mixmag have removed the post in question. No explanation as to what happened, no apology. And they haven’t responded to me either…
Just over two weeks ago now, this blog published an article about how Toolroom boss Mark Knight agreed to remix “Believe” by Ministers De La Funk and Jocelyn Brown after getting a personal phone call from “my friend” Erick Morillo, as he called him.
Regular readers will no doubt be aware that Morillo went to his grave last year with a cloud of suspicion over him – he was facing a rape charge at the time. Of course, that didn’t stop many of his DJ friends from paying him the most fawning, gushing tributes, many of which tried to downplay the allegations made against him.
To this day, Simon Dunmore and Jamie Jones remain amongst the very few DJs who accepted they got it wrong in their initial tributes. Many, such as those from Pete Tong and Danny Tenaglia, remain online to this day.
Anyway, there was a bit of a hoo-hah after Knight posted about it on his Instagram page…
After arguments flared up in the comments, including one between Toolroom stalwart and Morillo defender Harry Romero, Knight decided to delete the post – but not before I came along and screenshotted it for posterity. He replaced it with a slightly more conciliatory post, but also one which completely failed to explain the reasons why people were annoyed with Knight in the first place. And tellingly, Knight switched the comments off.
He said, quite notably, he was “proud of my remix”. This is highly questionable, for two reasons. One, it’s not really a remix. It’s more the original with his drums on top and a slightly changed arrangement. And two, it hasn’t been promoted anywhere else since. Knight has not made a single reference to the remix he claims he’s so “proud” of.
This is a very strange definition of the word “proud” you’re using there, Mark. Perhaps you’d like me to send you a dictionary?
A truth rarely admitted to is that house music is largely a sausage-fest. The higher echelons consist of a large number of very dodgy characters, who defend each other and ensure the whole house of cards doesn’t come crashing down. If one gets exposed, it often means more will too.
This is why you rarely see the big names within dance music criticising or speaking out against each other. Essentially, the whole structure is designed to maintain compliance and silence. The prize of taking part in the system? A career where you can make a lot of money and travel the world – just don’t forget to leave your conscience at home!
Mark Knight is certainly a person who’s made a lot of money out of the music business. Accounts filed on Companies House for Toolroom Productions confirm the business had net assets of £107,595 as of 31st December 2020 – a significant rise from £60,782 the previous year. They also confirm the company took out £50,000 under the Bounce Back Loan scheme.
Another truth is that many of the older generation like to have it both ways. They like to complain about a lack of new music to play, yet they have no problem milking their own records from back in the day dry. “Believe” by Ministers De La Funk and Jocelyn Brown is no different, having been remixed several times since its original release in 1999.
The latest is by the Toolroom Records boss himself. Apparently, Morillo phoned him shortly before his death to ask him if he could milk the cash cow one more time – although I wonder if Morillo mentioned to Knight that he needed the money to pay some upcoming legal bills?
Friend Within has probably reduced his chances of working with Toolroom again to zero by speaking out in the comments against Knight’s decision to remix the song – but at least he’s shown himself to be a man of principle by doing so…
Knight has taken the above post down now – literally as I was writing this post, but not before I took the screenshot – and posted this utterly tone deaf clarification…
You appear to have forgotten to say something about your friend being a sexual predator, Mark…
Facebook has this surprisingly useful feature on it where towards the start of the day, it’ll remind you of something you posted one year ago on this date or whatever. And there’s bound to have been a few people out there who were reminded yesterday of their tributes for Erick Morillo.
The DJ died under the cloud of suspicion of a rape charge. And as I said yesterday, he took the easy way out. At the time of his death, the likes of Danny Tenaglia, Carl Cox, Steve Lawler, Jamie Jones, Dennis Ferrer, Harry Romero, Pete Tong and numerous others were quick enough to post tributes.
Many of them would have received reminders of those tributes today. Yet not a single one of them had the courage or sheer stupidity – depends how you look at it, really – to say something more about their friend. Are they really that keen for him to be forgotten? Are they really that scared to ask some hard questions of themselves?
Michael Weiss at Nervous Records called him “one of the all time greats in our industry”. Well, the answer was just as expected. Yousef described him as “troubled, less than perfect” in a tweet he deleted later – with no apology or explanation. Pete Tong claimed he “had his demons”. And Carl Cox bizarrely said he “had no words to say”.
It’s almost as if all these men are ashamed of their dead friend. One can only wonder why they demean themselves by remaining silent…
It was one year ago to the day today that we learnt Erick Morillo had taken the easy way out. Facing a rape charge and with a court appearance due, Morillo was found dead in his plush Miami home on September 1st last year. How would the many DJs, producers, singers and others who knew him handle this particular hot potato?
Well, the answer was just as expected. By and large, they handled it terribly. Sharam, for example, referred to Morillo as “a troubled soul… many geniuses are”. Yousef described him as “troubled, less than perfect” in a tweet he deleted later. Pete Tong claimed he “had his demons”. And Jamie Jones said he “was not perfect”.
Dennis Ferrer made a particularly disgraceful statement – simply saying “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. Of the five men here, Jamie Jones was the only one with the decency to accept just how utterly insensitive his comments were – and with the courage to apologise.
The rest – and that includes other DJs like Danny Tenaglia, Joseph Capriati, Steve Lawler, Carl Cox and Nervous label boss Michael Weiss – have never had the good manners to own their words. Yousef, for example, took the coward’s way out – he deleted the gushing tweet he wrote about his dead friend, and steadfastly refused to explain why the tweet had been removed, let alone say sorry for it.
So, one year on, I ask the question – when will these DJs have the bottle to admit they got this wrong? When will they accept they made a mistake and apologise? And will any of them try and do better in the future?
For some reason, the expression “p***ing in the wind” comes to mind…
Last Thursday, the Musicians Union ran an online event entitled “Sexual Harassment and Safe Spaces: DJs, Electronic and Live Communities”. Long title, but the premise of the event was simple – how do you challenge the culture of sexism and sexual harassment that is much more pervasive in electronic music than anyone dares admit?
Well, I have quite a simple answer to this question. Stop venerating people. I’ve written in the past about the problem of idolatry within dance music – and it’s getting clearer each day that there are people out there who use this culture of almost being worshipped to their own disturbing advantage. Bad behaviour is ignored by a media that should be holding its own scene to account – but inevitably doesn’t.
Let’s take a look, for example, at Erick Morillo’s death. A few weeks before he died, it emerged he had been charged with sexual battery. He took the easy way out on September 1st last year by overdosing on ketamine – a drug traditionally used for tranquilising horses – depriving a woman of justice in the process. But you wouldn’t know any of this from the tributes that were posted by his fellow DJs and producers.
Yousef claimed that he was “troubled”. Simon Dunmore of Defected downplayed the allegations, although later apologised for doing so. Others, such as Pete Tong and Danny Tenaglia, pictured below, made no reference to the charges at all.
Several of those tributes were taken offline by his peers following heavy criticism after Mixmag published an article detailing further allegations by ten other women, and a campaign led by journalist Annabel Ross.
Yet none of these men – with the honourable exception of Dunmore – felt the need to explain why they’d taken their decisions. Not one defended their tributes, and not one of them even apologised. One cannot help but wonder whether they’d take the same stances if it was one of their own daughters whom had been a victim of Erick Morillo.
And shall we take a look at a more recent example? Mr Derrick May, of course. I have been blogging about him for a few months now. Annabel Ross and Ellie Flynn have done some articles about him, and Michael James – who started detailing allegations over a year ago – is still pursuing May with vigour. Yet the mainstream press remain silent. By rights, they should be informing their readers about him, questioning our information and so on. But they don’t.
The explanation really is quite simple. There are more of them within their midst. Since I started writing about Derrick May, I have been sent accounts about a number of other DJs and producers who behave in much the same way. The reasons are always alarmingly similar – mostly because they think they’ll get away with it, and often do.
So, there’s one idea straight away on how to reduce problems with sexual harassment and sexism within the industry. When women – and yes, men too – come forward with allegations about someone, don’t be so quick to disbelieve them. And exposing more of the scene to the rays of sunlight will do wonders too. If people think their chances of getting caught are higher, they’re less likely to do it. Does that solve the problem? No. But it’s a start…
I see that Mixmag won some awards last week. Good for them. It’s always nice to be told you’ve done something good, although I find it highly curious how media organisations seem to want to be given awards for doing their jobs.
The awards they’ve won are in two categories. One is for the work they’ve done, courtesy of Funk Butcher (real name Kwame Safo), who highlighted how the Black Lives Matter movement related to dance music and the wider industry.
There are no qualms from me on this one. The work from Safo on this was nothing short of exceptional. I believe the issues were approached in a sensitive manner aiming to raise understanding. I do, however, question whether Mixmag has the bottle for what could be a very long campaign.
The second award is for an article by Annabel Ross which basically exposed how Erick Morillo got away with his appalling behaviour for so many years. You can read it here. What I found most shocking was not the details, but how long this had been going on for.
Whilst not directly quoting Mixmag’s managing director, the Drum’s article says:
“Mixmag’s Managing Director Nick Stevenson said the Morillo investigation was very much in the public interest. While it may not have the same infrastructure or budget as mainstream media outlets, he believes it is an editorial platform that does not shy away from telling the truth.”
So why does Mixmag have nothing to say about plague raves? Why do they never ask any difficult questions in any of their interviews? Why do they have nothing to say about serial abusers like Derrick May?
No, the truth is that Mixmag, like most of the dance music press, are failing in their duty. Their job is to hold the dance music world to account. It is not simply to tell us about drugs or about the latest release from an artist. They have a duty to inform their audience on what is really going on.
Yet the matter is – and this is not a situation unique to Mixmag – they are too close to the industry in order to report on it with any real objectively. If they run an unflattering article about an artist, nightclub or whatever, they run the risk of losing access to them.
Scared of being put on a blacklist, they’re cowed. It’s the same with most of the dance music press – they rarely bother to practice journalism anymore. There should be distance between those making the music and those writing about it, and it’s time that fact was remembered.
Yes, the exposé from Annabel Ross is extremely powerful work. The same with Kwame Safo. But this should be the norm in dance music, not merely the exception to what is a very dull magazine playing it safe.
Far be it for me to rain on the British royal family – they’ve had more than their fair share of trouble and sadness recently – but amidst the talk about possible reconciliation between Princes Harry and William, a story came to mind.
It’s traditionally believed that Prince Harry was the more sociable of the two, the more likely to enjoy a party. Not necessarily so, according to club promoter Tony Truman.
Back in September 2020, Erick Morillo died. His autopsy revealed that he was killed by an overdose of ketamine, a drug traditionally used as a tranquilliser on horses. At the time, he had been charged with sexual battery and was due in court on the day his lifeless body was found.
None of this stopped Truman, of course, from posting that Morillo would be “properly missed by all”.
He then recited a story about the time that Prince William was in Ibiza with then girlfriend Kate Middleton, and Truman had been tasked with arranging his party plans. It is believed that all this happened in 2006, when the future Duke of Cambridge was 24.
Truman arranged for the prince to attend a party at Pacha, where Erick Morillo would be playing. According to his account, he received a phone call the next day from William himself – he praised Morillo for looking after him, and said that the DJ had turned the R&B fan onto house music.
Given what we now know about Erick Morillo, I doubt this is one story that William will want to remind anyone of…